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Old 19-12-2018, 10:33   #16
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Re: What type of heat system do people use on boats when its cold?

At the dock, I have an oil-filled electric radiator. Off shore power, nothing. PO incompletely installed a Webasto forced air diesel heater, but I have never taken the time to fix it. Since I cruise from NC to the Bahamas and points south, it's not a priority.
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Old 19-12-2018, 10:57   #17
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Re: What type of heat system do people use on boats when its cold?

My goodness. What are you doing there in New Orleans that they make you take a "ho bath"?


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In my slip I have never seen it get below freezing inside my boat so usually I don't bother. And if it's THAT cold I am certainly not taking the boat anywhere. An electric blanky when it is really really cold. Otherwise I sleep under two unzipped sleeping bags as needed, and dress warm. I have also ran a 1000w space heater in the vee berth at night, with the door closed. Never woke up shivering since I bought all the sleeping bags. On a previous boat I built a Franklin type stove out of scrap steel, chimney pipe, and a 30gal steel drum that originally contained chain. It put out a tremendous amount of heat but the fire would get cold about 4 in the morning if I didn't get up and feed it a little in the middle of the night. When it started to burn through in a couple of places I decided it wasn't worth the hassle. Can't use a wood stove where I am now. Not allowed. They allow propane, but not wood. Go figure. In New Orleans, electrric blankets and space heaters are very popular with liveaboards. Our needs are modest and my marina has showers so no need to take "ho baths" in a cold boat.


I will probably install a homebrew pressurized diesel stove in Brute Force, unless I find a sweet deal on a used one. I like using the same fuel for engine, generator, cooking, heating, lights, etc. Kerosene is another option for me since I have several backup kerosene anchor lights, running lights, house lamps and lanterns, etc and the wicks tend to clog up when burning diesel, even ultra low sulfur road diesel. My single burner on the little boat will cheerfully burn diesel or kerosene, either one, but it has no flue so can't use it to heat the boat, and I have to open the hatch for cooking with it.


Motorboaters have an advantage when it comes to heating. Just run the cooling water through a radiator, or wrap copper tubing around the exhaust manifold. Well, at least it works when the engine is running.
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Old 19-12-2018, 11:01   #18
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Re: What type of heat system do people use on boats when its cold?

I tend to cruise in colder areas (Lake Superior and now Newfoundland). At the dock, and when we’re living on the hard, we use a 1000w electric heater. Off the dock we use an Origo alcohol heater. We spend most of our time off the dock.

This is not the best heater. It throws off a lot of heat, but the fuel is bulky, and it involves an open flame which needs to be treated carefully while underway. There is also CO considerations to be very aware of. But as far as heat goes, this has always been more than adequate for our rather northern cruising.

Of course, being a tough Canadian I suspect I am more comfortable living with cold than most global cruisers.
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Old 19-12-2018, 11:07   #19
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Re: What type of heat system do people use on boats when its cold?

In the inland PNW, (freezing in winter, sometimes snow and ice on deck) I have a propane furnace. If I had a diesel engine, I'd certainly go with diesel heat, but I don't. At dock, I've used a small oil-filled heater. This year, I installed a Webasto unit with reverse-cycle heat available, but the boat is hauled this winter, so it is not getting tested. I wonder what the minimum useful temperature is? I experimentally plumbed the water output into the head discharge through-hull (below the water line) because it was easy. I was thinking it might work as a bubbler to keep ice away from the hull as well. Probably too easy to work...

Anyway, when things get icy, the key is insulation - most boats don't come with any...
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Old 19-12-2018, 11:10   #20
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Re: What type of heat system do people use on boats when its cold?

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Thanks Newhaul.

We had looked at Poulsbo, but Ray in Kingston was nice enough to hold a spot for us while we were on the hard in Pt Townsend, so we felt a little obligated.
Truth be told, Ray and the whole staff here are wonderful. (check out our Christmas lights!)

It may be a little more than Poulsbo, but it beats the heck out of Shilshole if you can even get in!

We have been to Poulsbo a few times since we have been in - I frequent the used nautical store there and Sluys Viking Caps are real artery cloggers.


Happy Holidays
yes the crew in Kingston are great . Shilshoe is a nightmare before a the Seattle part is taken into account . Then its flat out nuts.
Personally wrt slys its dough boys that get me going .
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Old 19-12-2018, 11:21   #21
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Re: What type of heat system do people use on boats when its cold?

Have four.
Dickinson diesel
A/C Dockside
Radiant off engine with fan
Propane red dot in head
Builder wanted to stay warm
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Old 19-12-2018, 11:58   #22
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Re: What type of heat system do people use on boats when its cold?

I have a Mermaid AC/Heat Pump that I can run while a the dock, and this will provide plenty of heat AS LONG AS THE OUTSIDE WATER TEMPERATURE IS ABOVE 42 F. If the water temperature is below this, the heat pump will pull the heat of fusion right out of the Bay water and it will freeze it in the pipes (takes about 10 minutes for it to shut down, from experience, and another 10 minutes with a heat gun to thaw it out). If the water outside is colder than that, or I am away from the dock, I use a propane heater (Little Buddy Heater) connected via hose to a regular propane tank, just cracking the hatch a bit to vent moisture and have a CO monitor on for safety.
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Old 19-12-2018, 12:08   #23
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Re: What type of heat system do people use on boats when its cold?

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I would also be interested in what's best to use that's temporary and portable, for use to get through that section of the ICW in the fall when the cold catches up to you, until you make it far enough south and it warms up.
Well, you said temporary and portable which rules out most systems that are commonly used away from shore power. I have used the portable propane heaters made for tents and RVs when I am in a situation with no practical onboard heat. A common brand are the Mr. Heater Buddy series which come in several sizes. These put out quite a bit of heat but do require some ventilation.
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Old 19-12-2018, 12:24   #24
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Re: What type of heat system do people use on boats when its cold?

Videorov, since you are in Bradenton, Florida your needs for heat are modest. So are mine in Southern California. As others have said, at the dock I use a small electric heater.

We cruise all year (lived aboard for years) and are often on the hook in our colder months. Sometimes getting the chill off in the cabin is essential in the morning or before bed. Without an installed heater we use a variety of solutions depending upon conditions. All of these methods involve burning a fuel in the cabin and so due concern for ventilation and CO monitoring is necessary.
1) We use a trawler type oil lantern which throws of a surprising amount of heat. We crack open a port and an overhead hatch.
2) We use a clay flowerpot over the propane range burner. The hole in the flowerpot act as a chimney and the heated terra-cotta pot radiates a lot of heat. We open a port whenever we use the propane range for cooking or heating.
3) We light the oven. The same concerns about ventilation apply whenever we use the oven.

We never use any of these heat sources when we sleep or when we are not on the boat. None of them is a good as a proper installed and vented heater. But they may be just enough for chilly evenings at anchor if used with care, with ventilation and with a CO monitor.
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Old 19-12-2018, 12:26   #25
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Re: What type of heat system do people use on boats when its cold?

Webasto diesel, CruiseAir and electric ceramic portable.
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Old 19-12-2018, 12:37   #26
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Re: What type of heat system do people use on boats when its cold?

Wat the dock or leaving the boat on bank electric oil radiators are great for keeping the boat dry and aired in cool damp climates.
When onboard I have a 10" log burner that can either burn beach wood or runs on charcoal. Apart from an occasional coat of paint it is maintenance free and gives more than enough dry heat. It is also great to sit in front of on a winters night.
I built the boat for northern waters not the tropics so heating is needed for at least 6 months a year.
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Old 19-12-2018, 12:45   #27
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Re: What type of heat system do people use on boats when its cold?

Sounds like all good ideas.
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Old 19-12-2018, 12:50   #28
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Re: What type of heat system do people use on boats when its cold?

+2 on the Espar hydronic. Even quiet heat through out the boat but probably over kill in Florida.
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Old 19-12-2018, 13:07   #29
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Re: What type of heat system do people use on boats when its cold?

Rum, knit watch cap, and sweaters.
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Old 19-12-2018, 13:09   #30
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Re: What type of heat system do people use on boats when its cold?

Dickenson Diesel forced Air for me. Throws off a lot of heat.
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